Passion project business ideas tend to map from a desire to enter the most difficult, exclusive, or resource-consuming fields and markets. They’re the kind of markets that you “break into” as opposed to “start in.” This creates friction in the creative and developmental process that many, less personal or ambitious, projects might not experience.
On top of that, most passion projects begin as side projects, and they might even be solo. Consistency and support are important ways to keep yourself determined when working on a demanding passion project. But just because it can be flippantly referred to as a “side gig” doesn’t exclude it from requiring tremendous amounts of time, dedication, and effort.
So, your startup is a passion project and right now you may be feeling more than a little dispassionate about it. The process itself can feel overwhelming.
It requires great ideas, the skills to put it together, tough skin for feedback, and the insight to optimize and eliminate bugs. It takes multiple drafts or iterations and a good deal of self-scrutiny before the final polished coat goes on. On top of that, there’s the business side, with marketing, selling, and support. For creatives, it’s not uncommon to feel that there’s always more to do.
Reasons That Your Passion Project Remains Unfunded
One of the heaviest weights on your mind will likely be a question of how much of your own income to invest in the project, and whether a lack of financial support makes your project dead on arrival. While your personal funds might be something to talk to a consultant about, rest assured that the only things to guarantee your project is DOA is a silent release.
Top reasons why your passion project remains unfunded:
- Passion makes you blind. You may not realize that your project has some glaring flaws. Or there might be various parts of your project that keep it from being a good investment. Pay attention to feedback and the needs and wants of your ideal customer demographic. Multiple iterations can help you to work out some of these kinks, but stay strong because many of those iterations are likely to remain unfunded.
- You lack experience. You might be among the top hobbyists in your field, but to outside investors that doesn’t always count toward your experience or track record. In this case, your passion project remains marked as a hobby until you prove it to the industry.
- You don’t know a lot about your project. You could be just getting into a field and learning as you go. You may not even be able to project manage or organize your project’s needs right. This means that you lack the kind of plan or project management that will get you investors or the kind of purchasing power that would allow you to hire more experienced talent. In this case, it’s time to hit the books and get your hands dirty.
- You’re a lone wolf. This project is something that you need to begin on your own, and you’ll know when the time will be right to bring someone else in. Just remember that a silent release can kill an otherwise excellent product, and it takes a team to scale a business, so don’t wait too long before assembling a team.
The Phases of a Passion Project
Passion projects come in wildly different shapes and sizes. From software and applications, to movies and animation, lifestyle products, a dream-come-true line of clothing, or a scalable brewery, passions run the gamut.
Some characteristics that these products do often share are:
- They may seem like an unlikely success.
- They require work and dedication.
- They frequently (but not always) tie together work in multiple disciplines.
- They offer the creative mind something besides a normal day job.
The Initial Phase
Passion projects often begin with an initial infatuation. Everything reminds you of your project. You’ve downloaded or purchased new tools because you’re excited. You want to talk about it with people, even though you have nothing to show. Even your project manager’s empty pages and schedules are exciting.
You may research how to begin. You likely dream big, despite telling yourself that you’ll need to stay down to earth. And you might start learning, which is exhilarating.
The Doing Phase
This is the stage where you begin working. This can be a very enjoyable phase, since you see some of your ideas taking root. As you make things, you can feel a sense of progress.
This is also the first drop-out stage. Those who drop out at this point have most likely realized that they don’t enjoy doing the work that they centered their project around. For example, you can’t become a head chef if you aren’t willing to stand in the kitchen all day, and there’s no glamorous spin off of your memoirs if you don’t write the first draft.
Those who stick tend to feel exhilarated as they learn more about the work they’re doing, and their project specifically. Discovering your project is a process of learning to think about it in multiple dimensions. As you make decisions and answer questions, you will reveal details about your project. These discoveries can feel good, and they will boost you to keep working and keep learning.
Getting a Scope for the Project and Looking Forward
This phase is a doozy. It’s when you come to realize the breadth and demands of your project. This usually happens as you finish a strong first layer of the project and start to feel a little accomplishment. Often, this accomplishment can be offset as you realize the scope of all you have left to do to complete your project. You also have a time reference now, since you can compare how long it took to complete the first layer with how much you have left to do.
Even though you’re theoretically in a good position at this point, morale tends to drop here. This is often where the creative binge comes to an end, and productivity becomes more of an uphill battle. The work isn’t getting any harder and you’re not working any slower, but now you know how much further you must go.
You will likely work through most of your project in this phase, and endurance is your biggest challenge. Some people find scheduling to be a key strategy during this time. Others find that it’s best to form a daily habit to make sure of consistent progress. This is also a good time to embrace group or community measures that will help to hold you accountable, such as joining a mastermind group.
Another aspect that adds difficulty to this phase is the need to start considering promotion and marketing, which will go into full swing in the next phase. As you develop a stronger or more functional project, you will need to start gathering an audience and thinking about how you will eventually pitch, package, market, brand, host, and distribute it.
Some people work their best under this pressure. Others find it difficult to innovate with the thought of future critics breathing down their neck. If you find these problems halting your process and creativity, it’s best to create a plan sooner rather than later. Planning means getting the process under control, so you can focus on other things.
Disclosure, Promotion, and Marketing
The next phase is going public, marketing, assembling a team, and developing an operational base. This stage can be difficult for those who are very close to their project, since going public can make it feel like your personal work is no longer your own. You may need to let go, alter and destroy aspects of your project that you really liked in some cases, and free your product for public consumption.
However, this is an extremely exciting and liberating time. Your product is ready to start getting attention and, very importantly, feedback. The stage of going public, whether it’s with a beta, test products, a Kickstarter campaign, or other promotional marketing, is your time to refine your project into something that people want or need.
After this point, you no longer have a tired old passion product, but a shiny new startup.
How to Keep Going
How do you stay focused and not lose momentum?
1. Admit That it’s Hard
It’s an unhealthy assumption that if you’re working on something because you like it, then it’s not difficult or challenging. Do what you love, and you will have rewarding work, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t work.
Developing, learning, building, persevering, and making decisions–these are all challenging. Loving your work doesn’t change that. So, don’t belittle the toil you put into your project. For one thing, this assumption creates unrealistic and damaging expectations. Passion projects, even when you enjoy what you’re doing, aren’t non-stop thrills and fun.
Your project will have difficult, challenging points. It will be hard. Once you admit that, things will get a little easier. Your expectations and attitude have a great effect on your ability to deal with difficult situations. If you expect challenges and embrace your own hard work, you will be much better set up to face these challenges.
2. Remember, You’re Learning
While it is important to keep in mind that everything has a learning curve, and you can’t expect perfection overnight. However, while you’re learning, it pays not to be easy on yourself.
The learning mode is one of the best times to push yourself. This is why startups are always looking for lifelong learners. It’s also why, as an often-kept secret, professionals may envy those who are freshly learning their field.
Learning is a superpower. Don’t slack off when it comes to the basics, and embrace the things you’re nervous about figuring out. Lean into understanding those things you don’t know. And if something is part of your project but you find that you’re resistant to learning it or your mind glosses over it, focus on it and lean on it harder. Making your former weaknesses into your strength will enrich your project in ways you can’t predict.
3. Track Your Progress
Big projects can have a labyrinthine effect. If you go down too many twists and turns, your whole project and direction may change. Whether it’s just you on the project for now or you have a small team, it’s extremely important to keep track of your progress. Different types of projects have different ways of tracking and managing progress, whether this is a version control system, project management software, or a handwritten log.
This consistently tracking what you’ve done and what you intend to do will help you structure your project, feel out your timeline, and estimate how long certain tasks take. The ability to look back at your choices, and it will also be vital in communicating with team members as you bring them in.
4. Cultivate Support
Support is essential for a passion project. It fosters positive feelings or emotions toward your project. It also brings you encouragement and the positive judgement that time spent on the project is, indeed, time well-spent.
Support doesn’t always come in the most obvious forms. For example, most entrepreneurs and creatives don’t require or particularly want a cheer-leader. Instead, consider finding conspirators. Look for the type of people who can’t help but root for goals to grow.
Support will feed off your positivity. That doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about your setbacks. Nonetheless, cast the project overall in a positive light to gain the support of others. Lastly, don’t underestimate the potential of simply asking for help, someone to talk to, or some advice from the community when you need it.
Projects and startups are nothing without perseverance and the ability to compose layer after layer of the project and perform edit after edit to make it great. However, whether it’s a solo project or a small team, these passion developments often work you under less stable conditions and with less support structures than many are used to. To hold on to your ability to persevere, it is essential to cultivate consistent working conditions, be honest with yourself about your work, and gather support for your goals.